By Rachel Buchanan
The Baltimore County Planning Board on Thursday discussed a 920-acre district along Pulaski Highway in Middle River as a potential area for commercial and residential development.
Almost 200 acres in the district have been laid out for new streets, a more walkable building orientation and the planned Mohrs Lane Bridge.
County Planning Director Andrea Van Arsdale said a series of design workshops will be held over the next month to allow area residents to look at the current plans for the district and provide county officials with feedback. Arsdale said residents have already raised concerns about highway congestion and new road designs.
Arsdale said the possible changes in the district will coincide with objectives in Master Plan 2020, a document that guides future development in the county.
“This plan embodies this county’s broad goals of protecting the environment, preserving agriculture, and ensuring safe places to live and work,” Arsdale said. “It combines the expertise and skill of Baltimore County’s public servants with input from the people of our communities to help determine both where and how land development will occur throughout the next decade.”
Stuart Sirota, the lead consultant for the Pulaski Highway plan, presented an overview of the project to date.
Sirota said Baltimore County conducted two previous studies of potential development in the district in 2009 and 2010. Based on the findings from those studies, Sirota said a well-planned, walkable community will be supported with reasonable transportation improvements. He said an interconnected street network will aid in distributing traffic and reducing further congestion.
According to Sirota, traffic currently concentrates at the intersection of Pulaski Highway and Middle River Road. He said the Mohrs Lane Bridge would double the area’s traffic circulation by creating a second railroad crossing.
He said the studies also showed that there is an opportunity to generate high-quality jobs in the district over time, increase property values and provide new housing. All of this will benefit nearby property owners and neighborhoods, Sirota said.
“This redevelopment will create an attractive community and make better economic use of the land,” said Sirota, who is the founder of the private consulting firm TND Planning Group. “It’ll improve the appearance of this segment of Pulaski Highway and create a model for more sustainable growth.”
Arsdale said the community design workshops that will be held over the next month are being conducted in partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation, the Office of Planning and Capital Programming, and the State Highway Administration’s Regional and Intermodal Planning Division. This phase of the project is being funded with a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, she said.
During the design workshops, community members will participate in a “visual preference survey,” according to Jackie MacMillan, a senior planner for Baltimore County. She said a slideshow of different places and buildings will be shown and the participants will be asked to rate them.
Following the survey, MacMillan said a large map will be distributed to each table with adhesive dots. She said participants will be asked to place green dots on locations where things should be preserved and red dots where things should change over time.
MacMillan said the next design workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on May 18 at Rosedale Baptist Church located at 9202 Philadelphia Road. Those who attend the workshop will see a presentation of alternative design concepts, she said. The community feedback that is received during the workshop will be presented at the next Planning Board meeting on June 5.
“It’s critical to build consensus among the different interests in order to move forward,” MacMillan said during the meeting. “Any change that may be planned for the area will happen gradually over several decades. Your input now will help craft a long-term vision that could guide redevelopment for the next 25 years.”
Unless otherwise noted, the Planning Board meets on the first and third Thursday of each month excluding August and December. Meetings begin at 4 p.m. in room 104 of the Jefferson Building located at 105 W. Chesapeake Ave. All meetings are open to the public.